If you're reading this, you probably already know that I consider San Diego one of the best craft beer cities in the United States. Like Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco, there are any number of beer hikes you can forge. Just grab a copy of West Coaster and start walking. No matter what part of town you're in, you'll be clutching a pint in no time.
On Day 2 of my recent trip to SD (a near-perfect Saturday), I took a full-day hike to most of the breweries that are dotted along the north side of the Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. I knew just from sketching it out on Google Maps that my route was going to take me through a lot of business parks and warehouse clusters and I didn't expect the hike to have much flavor. But as is often the case, I found that there's a lot more to a place once you've actually got your feet on the ground.
Business Park Brewery Hike; 7.8 mi.
Green Flash / Rough Draft / Hess / Alesmith / Ballast Point
View Business Park Brewery Hike in a larger map
1. Green Flash Brewing Co.
Getting to Green Flash by bus was easier than I expected -- about an hour and it's a scenic ride with only one transfer. The brewery is huge, so it's easy to find, and the selection of beers in the tasting room is dizzying. I would've taken the brewery tour, but the urban trail called and I had to settle for a few tasters and a half-pint of Black IPA. (I also ended up talking to another visitor who happened to be from Seattle. He actually grew up in the neighborhood I live currently live in. Weird.)
|Carroll Canyon (I think)|
From Green Flash, the first leg of the hike is 2.3 miles and is definitely worthy of the term, "hike". There is a little walk through an office park before a gradual descent into (and climb out of) Carroll Canyon. I was amazed at how quiet everything was. I guess it makes sense, it being a Saturday. During the week, all of these buildings are probably teeming with life, but on the weekend it's like a ghost town. There weren't many cars on the road in this part of town either:
|Pretty desolate on Saturday... I loved it.|
2. Rough Draft
I made it to Rough Draft in about 45 minutes and had broken a bit of a sweat from the moderate climb. Like Green Flash, Rough Draft is also in an industrial/business park area. The rest of the neighborhood was closed for the weekend, but the brewery was alive and bustling. There was a food truck, a party bus, and some people setting up for a birthday bash. I'd never had any of Rough Draft's brews, so I asked the beer tender to set me up with some tasters. Everything was enjoyable, even the one that tasted like buttered popcorn:
When I was finished, it was time to hike again and off I went. Just as before, it was like walking through an abandoned part of town. Generic, windowless buildings on all sides, seemingly deserted, and almost no cars. I felt like The Omega Man.
3. Hess Brewing
The business park that Hess resides in was the most labyrinthine yet and the brewery was a bit tricky for me to find. My GPS says it's here and I can hear music and people close by, but where the hell is it? I spotted a guy fixing a forklift in a nearby workshop and he directed me just around the corner to the brewery. As with Rough Draft, Hess was an oasis of activity and people in a sea of desolation. Things were hopping when I arrived, but not so much that it was crowded. There was a crazy man from Alabama in the corner cursing at his iPhone and Swieners had set up shop. I was very tempted to grab a sausage to go with my tasters, including their triple IPA, but before I knew it, it was time to move on.
It was nice to visit their little tasting room while it's still small. Before long they will be moving to a much bigger facility in the very fun neighborhood of North Park. It looks like they have some very big plans for the new place. I'll look forward to investigating on my next trip down.
|Plans for Hess' new North Park brewery|
When I left Hess, the sun was setting and the temperature was falling. A big, bright full moon came out to greet me as I headed east along some warehouse-studded side roads. I arrived at Alesmith in no time and was met with quite a crowd. (The same party bus that I saw earlier at Rough Draft was in the parking lot.) It was pretty easy to elbow my way to the bar and grab some beer -- it's always easier when you're hiking alone. Once again, there were too many things on tap that I wanted to try so I had to settle for several tasters. After fucking around a bit by myself (see below) and then a spirited conversation with some locals, I started to feel the pressure of the growing crowd. I was glad Link wasn't with me as he'd probably have hated being in the midst of all the humanity.
|Beer Olympics at Alesmith|
It was an easy, but long hike from Alesmith to my final stop, Ballast Point. It would have been interesting to stop and geek out at White Labs along the way, but I couldn't spare the time. The clock was ticking and the last bus south leaves pretty early on Saturday night. When I do this hike again, it will be in reverse order and White Labs will be included. The place sounds really fun.
|Moonrise Sunset (good band name?)|
5. Ballast Point
From Alesmith, I made my way east, over I-15, and arrived at my last stop. It was dark pretty much the whole walk from Alesmith, but no matter. This is urban hiking and there were plenty of street lights and a full moon to guide me. As was the case everywhere else on the hike, a lively party at the brewery was nestled in the middle of the stillness and quiet of the business park. For the third time that day I encountered the party bus. Some of the revelers recognized me from the other breweries and demanded to know just what the hell I was doing and if I wanted to party with them. It wasn't easy explaining to them that I had walked the whole way and was just about finished for the night (it wasn't even 9pm yet -- early for them, no doubt).
It was no easy task getting a beer: the bar was very crowded and I had no idea what I wanted. The idea of a pint of Sculpin at the source was very appealing, but I'm also always interested in small beers -- especially at the end of a long hike. The Even Keel Session Ale hit the spot perfectly and went well with the lobster grilled cheese I got from the food tent outside.
It was hard to leave Ballast Point in the middle of the party, but I had to catch the last bus back to my home base to avoid a pricey cab ride. The ride home was easy, but involved a couple of transfers so I had plenty of time to reflect on the day's hike.
When I drew this hike up on paper, I expected that the beer would be good, but I didn't expect much from the hike itself. It's a great walk, though. The perfect weather, combined with how quiet everything was (plus the fact that I was alone) made for a very relaxing and introspective day. It had been a very long time since I did a solo beer hike. It reminded me that while I always enjoy walking with friends, it can be just as rewarding and fun by yourself.